I've always been one who craves companionship and having my friends and family around is not only important, but has become enough of a habit that I really don’t like being alone. Not liking to be alone could potentially be one of the reasons why on most days I often go directly from one thing to another without taking any time to be entirely by myself with nothing to do.
Research has indicated that people who're comfortable with time alone experience improved mental health and even have better life satisfaction and lower rates of depression. In truth, there are numerous studies that tout the benefits of solitude and I even found one suggesting that the busier you are, the more likely you are to benefit from some quiet time. This week, after 40 years, I finally experienced it for myself and now realize the importance of spending time alone, as well as the need to allow our mind and body a chance to relax and reset.
My revelation started on New Years Eve when our youngest woke up with a low grade fever. I honestly didn’t think much of it, but by the end of the day, even after alternating Tylenol and Motrin every three hours, his temperature was 105 and climbing. At this point I obviously knew something was wrong, but never in a million years could I have predicted that within the next 12 hours, all my kids, as well as myself, would test positive for COVID-19 and need to enter complete isolation from my husband and everyone else.
The good news is that Daniel quickly started to recover from his fever and the rest of us experienced mild symptoms ranging from loss of taste and smell to congestion and minor body aches. The bad news is the situation we were in rendered me the sole caregiver to all three boys with nowhere to go for a minimum of a ten day quarantine.
I immediately went online and ordered a number of craft/activity projects and I started to find creative ways to get all the kids playing together. By the end of the first day, I was shattered; I couldn’t even keep my eyes open to read to my son's bedtime story. In that moment, I realized if we were going to make it through in one piece, I was going to need to make sure I was also taking care of myself; in order to do that I was going to definitely need some downtime away from the children.
I made a promise to myself that I was going to carve out 15 minutes a day where I could be alone to rebuild my mental fortitude. I would not use the time for shopping, house work, meal prep, or electronics; I would use the time to allow myself to do nothing except sit and think. Fifteen minutes may not sound like a lot, but let me tell you, if you're like me and not used to solitude, even 15 minutes can feel a little uncomfortable at first. However, creating quiet time could be the key to becoming a better version of yourself, even if you only start with a few minutes each day.
The truth is, once I got my head around it, the time to myself was magical because I was not only able to use it to reset, but I used it as an opportunity to catch up with my own thoughts and feelings. I genuinely believe that during this difficult period, time alone allowed me to mentally prepare myself for everything to come in the tough days that lay ahead.